Charleston Southern's Jaren Sustar ripped a three-run double as part of a five-run Buccaneers' fourth inning to carry CSU past visiting Coastal Carolina, 7-3, in the opener of a Big South Conference series on Thursday night at CSU Ballpark.
The win clinches a spot in next week's Big South Championship in Lynchburg, Va. and ends a five-game losing streak to the Chanticleers.
CSU moves to 22-30 overall and 11-11 in Big South play, while Coastal falls to 33-19 and 16-6 in conference play.
The Buccaneers broke the game open with five runs in the fourth to get their marquee home win of the season and their third win in four games against a top-three team in the Big South.
Sustar's double gave CSU a 4-1 lead after Alex Tomasovich and Chase Shelton put together back-to-back doubles to knot the game at 1-1.
CSU head coach Stuart Lake immediately pointed out the big plays his seniors made with the Bucs' postseason hanging in the balance.
"(Sustar's double) was a huge swing for us," Lake said. "You need older guys, especially at the end of the year when younger guys sometimes lose focus, to pick you up and I thought he and Gunther did that tonight."
Gunther (WP, 7-4) was unfazed falling behind 1-0 in the fourth and later giving up two long solo home runs. He had arguably his best outing for what he didn't do: issued zero walks. He worked eight innings and struck out five.
"I always tell our guys that momentum is based on your starting pitcher and Ryan Gunther was special tonight," Lake said. "He gave us that feeling and confidence that we were in control."
CSU can only improve its seeding on the weekend. CSU could finish as high as second in the
South Division but will have to come up with at least one more win over the Chants.
"They're really good as we all know, but we're going to do everything we can to put ourselves in position to take the series," Lake added.
Both starters dominated the first three innings before both scored in the fourth.
Coastal moved ahead in the fourth as Will Remillard singled and scored on a Buccilli single to give the Chants a 1-0 lead. The damage could have been worse, but Bucs' leftfielder John Faircloth doubled off Buccilli at first for an inning-ending double play.
Sustar's double was one of three for the Bucs in the fourth. Kevin Hickey added an RBI single to score Sustar as the Bucs took advantage of a pair of walks issued by CCU starter Ben Smith (LP, 4-3).
CCU right fielder Colin Hering quickly cut into the CSU lead in the fifth with a solo home run to lead off the inning.
CSU answered the run right back in the bottom half with as Robbie Streett scored Chase Shelton with an RBI single.
CSU extended its lead to 7-2 in the seventh on another Shelton double, this time scoring Alex Tomasovich, who reached after being hit by a pitch.
The Chants added another solo home run in the eighth as Jacob May belted a solo home run.
Shelton was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Sustar finished 2-for-4, and Bobby Ison added a 2-for-4 night as well.
Reliever Andrew Tomasovich worked a scoreless ninth for the Bucs.
Catcher Will Remillard was 2-for-4 with a run scored to carry the CCU offense.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at CSU Ballpark.